Cognitive Psychology Studies

Cognitive Psychology is the study of how the mind works. It looks at what it calls mediational processes (processes that occur in our minds), such as perception, attention, memory, forgetting, learning, language and sometimes even intelligence. The studies in this section cover a number of these. Loftus and Pickrell look at memory. Baron-Cohen et al look at perception and how it is affected by autism. Held and Hein study the development of perception in animals and Mann et al look at how to tell if someone is lying. To learn more, click on the study below.

Strengths of the cognitive approach

Cognitive psychology is very scientific, based mainly on laboratory experiments. This means that it's conclusions are more likely to be reliable, because large amounts of data will be collected and compared.

Experiments are also likely to be high in internal validity, as they will attempt to control all extraneous variables so that only the IV can affect the DV.

It has had many useful applications to the real world, for example in therapy, or in analysing witness statements in court.

Computer models can be built to test ideas that we could not do on humans. These are ethically much better than using either humans or animals.

Weaknesses of the cognitive approach

Because it only looks for the causes of our behaviour in our thought processes, the cognitive approach is reductionist. It ignores possible causes for our behaviour that could have come from, for example, our social environment or our biology.

Lab experiments are low in ecological validity because they create unusual situations for participants. This may lead participants to behave strangely, producing behaviour that is not representative of normal life. This means we cannot be completely confident about generalising the findings.

Because it tries to find laws about behaviour that it can generalise to whole populations, the cognitive approach ignores individual differences. It treats us as all working in the same way and ignores the factors what might make us all unique.

Mann, S., Vrij, A. and Bull, R. (2002)

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Loftus, E.F. and Pickrell, J.E. (1995)

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Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Hill, J., Raste, Y. and Plumb, I. (2001)

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Held, R. and Hein, A. (1963)

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